Plans to take probation officer training out of higher education could end up putting the public at risk, say vice chancellors.
In an unusually forceful submission to the Home Office over proposals based on the Dews report on the service, the Committee for Vice Chancellors and Principals says the principle of two years' university-based training, which has taken years to establish, is the bare minimum needed to acquire the necessary intellectual grounding together with professional and practical skills.
The committee describes the proposals variously as "absurd", "astonishing", "misguided and unnecessary" and "incoherent and uncoordinated".
"A reduction in the range of knowledge and skills to be acquired in initial training could lead to a considerable risk to the public," it says.
The submission argues that the review team working on the Dews report found "widespread satisfaction" with current arrangements and that both the report and the subsequent Home Office discussion paper have chosen to ignore this.
The arrangements "have promoted partnership between educators and employers to ensure that training meets employment requirements.
"The partnership is a genuine one; the probation services work with universities in interviewing and selecting applicants, in course planning and in teaching and assessing students," it says.
Taking training out of higher education would make the transfer of research-based knowledge into teaching and preparation much more difficult.
"The knowledge base of probation owes a great deal to university-led research," it says. It would damage the professional status of the probation service as a whole.
The CVCP also argues that the costings on which the recommendation is based are incomplete and misleading, ignoring the cost to employers of creating new structures and the loss of funding council support should training be taken out of the universities.
* The plans were also attacked at the Association of University Teachers conference in Weston-super-Mare last week.
Delegates resolved to campaign against the Home Office proposals, which were described as "incoherent, anti-intellectual and likely to do considerable damage to probation-related research in universities".